Will Congress Fix the Voting Act This Year?

Brentin Mock writes in Colorlines that Congress this year is likely to restore protections to the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court this summer. 

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Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) testify on the Voting Rights Act. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Brentin Mock writes at Colorlines that this year congressional leaders are likely to restore protections to the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court this summer. The speculation comes amid a series of hearings, meetings and verbal commitments from congressional members and civic leaders, he writes.

A few weeks ago Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican representing Wisconsin, pledged that Congress would fix the "preclearance" coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in June. This was news to most Americans, who haven’t seen their Congress so much as fix a salad together.  

In an interview with outgoing NAACP President Ben Jealous at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the March on Washington, Jealous said he felt confident that Congress would fix it "possibly by the end of this year."

But can Congress really pull this off, and so soon? According to congressional and civil rights leaders, a 2013 fix is well within reach.

This week, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement in commemoration of the four young black girls who were killed in the September 15, 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where he spelled out what a new Voting Rights Act should look like:

"We must restore the vital protections that were weakened by the Supreme Court’s ruling. We must provide additional remedies for states and counties anywhere in the nation that not only have a history of discriminating against their voters but continue to do so. We must extend the reach of these protections to states that commit serious voting rights violations in the future. We must amend the existing provisions of the Act to make those protections more effective. And we must provide greater transparency for changes to voting procedures so that voters are made aware of these changes."

Read Brentin Mock's entire piece at Colorlines.

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